How to use bolt cutters

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Exclamation mark illustrating caution that needs to be used when employing bolt cutters Bolt cutters are a very useful tool, but need a little forethought before you employ them as hasty usage can result in damage to the tool. Make sure you take proper precautions before using them!
Wonkee Donkee advises: "A pair of thick gloves will improve your grip and also make it more comfortable to work with heavy-duty bolt cutters."
Small can of multi-purpose oil which should be used to lubricate stiff bolt cutter joints prior to use

Step 1 – Oil joints if necessary

Your bolt cutters might be stiff to open – especially if they have been sitting around unused for some time. If so, apply a few drops of a lubricant oil to the hinges to ease them before use.

Bolt cutter jaws with excessive gap between the jaws when handles are closed

Step 2 – Check jaw gap is even

If, when the handles of your bolt cutters are closed, there is a significant gap (thicker than a piece of writing paper) between the blades then you will find it difficult to cut through the material fully. Take a few minutes to adjust the blades using the adjustment bolt on the neck of the tool.

For a step by step guide, see: How to adjust the jaws on bolt cutters

Bolt cutters cutting through a clear and unobstructed length of cable.

Step 3 – Choose cutting point

Look for a clear and unobstructed place to cut, where you can get a good grip on the metal with the jaws. If this is difficult, then you might need to use end cut jaws which allow you to reach into confined spaces.

For more information, see: What are the different types of bolt cutters?

Image illustrating how you need to position material being cut as far down the bolt cutter jaws as possible.

Step 4 – Position material at base of jaws

Move the bolt cutter jaws around the material so that it lies as far down the blades as possible, near to the hinges. This is where there is most cutting force and it also helps to stop whatever is being cut slipping out of the tool’s jaws.

Image showing how you sometimes need to brace one of the handles of a pair of bolt cutters.

Step 5 – If necessary, brace cutter arm

With unyielding metal, it can be useful to brace one arm of the cutter on the surface you are working on, leaving both of your hands free to press down on the other arm – rather than trying to squeeze the arms together with both hands.

Dockworker using bolt cutters to cut bolt off sea container

Step 6 – Close blades

Close the blades of the cutter by pushing the handles together. Use a slow, steady action so that the material being cut does not slip out as the tool bites. Resist the temptation to twist and turn the tool to hasten the cutting, as this could damage the blades.

Cartoon image of man pushing boulder up hill, illustrating that you need to apply sustained force with a tool like a bolt cutter

Step 7 – Apply pressure

Forcefully press the bolt cutter handles together, gradually increasing the blade pressure on the cutting spot until it yields. If the material is relatively soft, it will probably give quickly. If it is hard, then you will perhaps just make a notch initially and the final cut will only come after repeated applications of force on the handles.